13102 N. Navarro
347 S. Main
Steve Ertle and Bob Binns
Ertle and Binns purchased their first store, the Highlands property, in 1997. That 18,000 square foot facility has Yamaha, Suzuki and KYMCO motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs and scooters. In 2003, the pair bought the smaller Victoria store. That store, which is about 7,000 square feet, has Yamaha and KYMCO products, as well as its own challenges. The Victoria store is in a much smaller area — Highlands is a Houston suburb — and so getting qualified personnel has proven to be difficult, Ertle said. The previous owner, who had the store for about a year, also developed a poor reputation in the community. “That’s been our biggest challenge is turning the reputation around and gaining the trust of the local community,” he said. Combined, the two stores have about 40 employees.
Ertle said he’s most concerned with “manufacturers overproducing inventory. Everybody seems to be market-share driven all of a sudden.” Retail financing concerns are a constant for the business. Ertle said he is constantly seeking new lenders and looking to partner with area credit unions and banks to diversify their financing options.
Chrome accessories for Yamaha’s Star and Boulevard lines have done very well, Ertle said. Other parts that are doing well are side-by-side accessories, especially wheels and tires for the area’s mud riding.
Customer buying trends
“One thing I really have noticed is customers are far more educated when they come into the store than they ever have been in the past,” Ertle said, noting this is the case for new units and parts and accessories. “It makes us stay on top of our game, training our sales (staff) with product knowledge, and us having to know what’s available and what’s hot for each particular model.”
Parts and service
Last year, Ertle said the Highlands store became the only Houston-area dealership to offer same-day service. As long as customers drop off their vehicles by 10 a.m. they are assured of getting their maintenance jobs completed by 6 p.m. Ertle said the dealership has advertised this service with direct mailers and on the store’s Web site. The result: a 20 percent increase in business so far this year. On the accessory side, Ertle said they run their department like a sales department. “We don’t want parts people that just happen to be selling parts. So we have a sales mentality,” he said, noting that the department has sales meetings.
Promotional home runs
A monthly customer appreciation day — complete with free hamburgers and specials in each department — has boosted store traffic on those particular days by 50 percent, Ertle said. The dealership markets the events with direct mailers and in print advertising. The dealership also recently started a bike night, which is held on the first Thursday of each month. The night is designed as a “a social event for street motorcycle customers,” Ertle said, noting the riders start their ride at the dealership and then end up at a local venue. The program is run by the dealership’s full-time promotions manager, a position the dealership has had for a little more than a year. “We try to engage the customer as much as possible,” Ertle said.
Words of advice
“What’s been very helpful for us is to be part of a 20 club group,” said Ertle, who has attended a club for about five years. “I highly recommend that.”
— Neil Pascale
Dealers interested in having their stores featured as a Power Profile should contact Pascale at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2006 Powersports Business